“October Surprise” by Israel Could Sink Obama’s Re-election Chances

Zbigniew Brzezinski

Zbigniew Brzezinski

Edward Luce, Washington columnist and commentator for the Financial Times, waited to the next to the last paragraph of his description of lunch with his friend, Zbigniew Brzezinski, to drop a bombshell. As they finished off their lasagna and taglierini, and after he recorded that the former U.S. National Security adviser is worried about China and President Obama, the subject of the next presidential election came up.

During the interview at Washington’s Teatro Goldoni restaurant, Brzezinski admitted to having voted for Republicans a couple of times (one being George H.W. Bush). “A good election is one that would shape out in an intelligent victory by Obama,” he said, adding that, however, “There is no sign of that from the other side.” “Which means Obama will win,” asked Luce. Well, not at all, says Brzezinski. “My fear is that two or three weeks before the election something will happen – an October surprise. If Iran were struck by Israelis during October, the negative effects would not be felt until late November and December. The first effect would be, ‘Ah, how wonderful. Let’s get behind the Israelis.’ Then all bets would be off.”

Now, Brzezinski is no peacenik, and most of his policies are not something any progressive could support. The bloody mess in Afghanistan is largely his fault. But when you read his writings or hear him speak you come away confident that he is, for the most part, sane and sensible. His comment about Iran should have made the front pages of the big newspapers – and gone viral on the blogs.

Nobody I know who pays attention to such things imagines that the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu would launch a strike against Iran without at least the tacit okay from Washington. If Brzezinski thinks it might, that’s scary news.

However, on January 14, the Wall Street Journal reported “U.S. defense leaders are increasingly concerned that Israel is preparing to take military action against Iran, over U.S. objections, and have stepped up contingency planning to safeguard U.S. facilities in the region in case of a conflict.” According to the paper, the alarm grew to the point last week that President Obama got Netanyahu on the telephone and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was dispatched this week to Tel Aviv.

“U.S. officials briefed on the military’s planning said concern has mounted over the past two years that Israel may strike Iran. But rising tensions with Iran and recent changes at Iranian nuclear sites have ratcheted up the level of U.S. alarm,” said the Journal.

The article’s authors, Adam Entous, Juliane Barnes and Jay Solomon, went on to suggest obliquely –and I think unlikely –that the reason the U.S. is uncertain about Israeli intention is a spy problem. “Some American intelligence officials complain that Israel represents a blind spot in U.S. intelligence, which devotes little resources to Israel,” they wrote. “Some officials have long argued that, given the potential for Israel to drag the U.S. into potentially explosive situations, the U.S. should devote more resources to divining Israel’s true intentions.”

Now that’s really scary.

Over at Counterpunch, Alexander Cockburn takes up the questions, “Will Israel attack? Is Obama, coerced by domestic politics in an election year, being dragged into war by the Israel lobby? Will he lunch the bombers? Is the strategy to force Iran into a corner, methodically demolishing its economy by embargoes and sanctions so that in the end a desperate Iran strikes back?”

“As with sanctions and covert military onslaughts on Iraq in the run up to 2003, the first point to underline is that the US is waging war on Iran,” writes Cockburn. “But well aware of the US public’s aversion to yet another war in the Middle East, the onslaught is an undeclared one.”

Still, that’s not the same as a military attack – and its inevitable catastrophic consequences. But Cockburn makes a good – and frightening – observation when he cites former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey saying to him, “Note also that this is one of those rare but dangerous moments in history when Big Oil and the Israelis are pushing the White House in the same direction. The last such moment was quickly followed by Dubya’s invasion of Iraq.”

Carl Bloice, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, is a columnist for the Black Commentator. He also serves on its editorial board.